While a lot of attention has been given to devastating hits taken by creative industries such as music events and the arts as well as the restaurant and bar business, the retail sector is also suffering in Los Angeles and beyond due to the Coronavirus crisis. Small businesses in L.A. have been shutting their doors left and right in the wake of federal and local government mandates and strong suggestions to limit contact with others by avoiding large groups and venues where they congregate. As of this writing, popular chain stores that have announced closure include Sephora, Urban Outfitters and Apple, and many more are following.

And yet (with the exception of the O.C.’s South Coast Plaza and Rodeo Drive), malls and shopping destinations in L.A. have stayed open, making for a curious inconsistency in terms of large crowd locales that seem to directly defy governmental guidelines. While many local malls these days are connected to Target or Walmart stores that house essential grocery stores and pharmacies — and hence need to stay open — some stores have yet to shutter, and they are getting called out for it on social media.

On H&M’s Facebook page for example, the comments section is filled with hundreds of customers and employees pleading with the chain to close, and as of last night, they issued no response, only a public statement that said the brand is still open and just taking “additional precautions to ensure we are maintaining a healthy and clean environment by increasing the frequency of cleanings across high-touch surfaces and highly trafficked areas.”

[As we were about to post, H&M did respond to customers on Facebook, stating in the comments section: “Our U.S. stores has been temporarily closed as a precautionary measure to ensure the health and safety of our colleagues and customers. However, not to worry as we have extended our return policy indefinitely. Please stay tuned for more updates. Best wishes!”]

Other stores such Ross are still operating as usual and have issued no statements at all about how they plan to protect employees or the public. We spoke with a few employees of local chain stores still open (all asked to remain anonymous) about working in high traffic public places right now, and the general consensus was conflicted.

Basically what we are told is we anticipate remaining open until we are told to shut down,” says a 30-year-old female employee at Home Goods in the Valley. “I anticipate continuing to work until the very last moments. They are providing gloves and antibacterial spray to clean the registers. We are given breaks to wash are hands regularly as well. [But] honestly, it’s a mixed bag for me, I need the money so I’m glad for that but as someone who is immuno-compromised I wish we were closed.

A 20-something employee at Macy’s tells us that his store was just closed today, but due to the heightened risk in recent days, “they should have done it a lot sooner.”

As COVID-19 spreads in Los Angeles, all this may change in a matter of days, but as Mayor Eric Garcetti and White House Coronavirus Task Force head Dr. Anthony S. Fauci have stated, what we do now is likely to make all the difference in what we’ll have to deal with in the very near future. While still open, at least some shopping centers have issued statements about new cleaning guidelines at their locales. The Glendale Galleria’s statement, for example, outlines the following:

  • Increased frequency of cleaning highly touchable areas throughout a property and disinfecting high traffic areas within the malls and their parking garages.
  •  Increased the frequency and intensity of cleaning touchable surfaces using a strong disinfectant known to eradicate viruses.
  • Hand sanitizer dispensers placed throughout the mall that are replenished or replaced as needed.

Click links to some of L.A.’s most popular shopping malls below for the latest on what they are doing in response to the pandemic.

Update:  Wondering about Amoeba Music? Its Northern California stores are closed but the Hollywood store remains open. If you’re weary of shopping there, just before 4 p.m. today, the store announced “Curbside Pickup” to satisfy your music needs. Call them at 323-245-6400 to place orders and they will bring your merch out to your car everyday until 8 p.m. More info: http://bit.ly/2QpPymy

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